Thoughts about the Surface and the iPad Pro

This article was written after reading Benjamin Brooks’ convincing take on the future of computing. Read it here.

Many comparisons have been made between the Surface and the iPad Pro. But the two cannot be more different. It shows how Apple’s vision of future computing is very different from Microsoft’s.

Microsoft has a large user base, which is familiar with Windows software on the desktop. And lately, Microsoft is losing more and more customers to tablets.

To counter this trend, Microsoft created the Surface line of hybrid devices. Microsoft hopes that by offering a “laptop that can also be a tablet”, it can convince Windows customers not to switch to the iPad.

The Surface line is aimed squarely at existing Windows customers more comfortable with a desktop environment. It is not meant to be a tablet replacement, rather, it is created to stop people from switching to real tablets.

Or, at least, tablets not running Windows OS.

The iPad Pro is different. To explain this, we need to look at the 12 inch MacBook.

The MacBook is a controversial device. It only has one port, which is also used for charging. In that sense, it is very like an iPad. Reviewers claim that the MacBook is a device made for tomorrow, not today. Many feel that it is Apple’s answer to the future of the laptop.

It is not.

Sure, the MacBook is futuristic. But it is made with a particular audience in mind, i.e. OS X users and Windows users. In short, people used to the desktop. Hence the keyboard and touchpad and cursor, hence OS X. It is a future meant for OS X and Windows users only.

For everyone else who has no knowledge of Windows and OS X, there is the iPad Pro.

The iPad Pro is, in Apple’s eyes, the true computer of the future. It’s specs is better than many laptops. Obviously, Apple expects the Final Cut Pros and Photoshops and Excels of the future to be run on the iPad, and to bring upon us that future, the hardware has to be ready today.

In most of Apple’s promotional material, the iPad Pro is shown without a keyboard. It is a shockingly simple rectangular slab of glass, which can take any form. Perhaps that is how Apple intends people to use it. The Smart Keyboard is only a temporary crutch for people used to desktop computing. In the future, people will forget what a physical keyboard is, and their main computer will be a slab of glass, powerful enough to do anything and flexible enough to be anything other than a laptop, which is a concept best forgotten.

In that sense, the MacBook is very similar to the Microsoft Surface. The iPad Pro, despite superficial similarities, is very different from the Macbook and the Surface, at least in philosophy. It is meant for a different (and bigger) audience, and in typical Apple fashion, it is truly meant for the future, not just some nerd’s vision of it.